The 8th House of Representatives (2015–2019) which came to close Thursday, took off with a legislative agenda against a background of huge expectations from Nigerians about the way government business is conducted.
To address these expectations, the House set to implement a Legislative Agenda that will position it to deliver legislation in aid of development and reforms aimed at improving conditions of living in Nigeria.
As clearly spelt out at the beginning by the Speaker of the 8th Assembly, the agenda outlines steps and prioritises legislative actions required to achieve set goals and objectives.
“This Legislative Agenda takes lessons from the experiences of the 7th House of Representatives and seeks to consolidate the gains and achievements thereof. The House recognises that there remains widespread citizens distrust of public institutions and government generally. It is also recognised that there is a lot of public misconception and misperception about the functions and contributions of the legislature to Nigeria’s overall socioeconomic and political development. Yet, the legislature’s contributions to Nigeria’s democracy remain critical and important.
“The 8th House of Representatives will assert its role in providing leadership in the areas of accountable and transparent government, citizens engagement, as well as constituency representation. The House of Representatives will collaborate with its counterpart in the Senate and other arms of government to legislate for the common good of the Nigerian people.
“Our legislative activities will cover critical spheres of life in Nigeria. The House will legislate to achieve reforms in Nigeria’s national economy and development, tackle poverty, unemployment, confront the scourge of corruption, terrorism and security challenges in the country.
“The House will also give priority to green legislations to address environmental challenges such as desertification, erosion and pollution. The 8th House of Representatives will also work assiduously to improve the governance process in Nigeria by legislating to cut the cost of running government, reduce wastage and tackle National Revenue leakages.
“The House commits to playing its part in rescuing Nigeria from the clutches of hunger, poverty, disease, social, economic, political and infrastructural quagmire. The 8th House of Representatives, as a Peoples’ Parliament, will be sensitive to public demands for transparency and accountability not just by the House of Representatives but also by government at all levels.
“Our legislative actions would therefore seek to build public confidence and trust and be responsive to citizens’ questions regarding the conduct of legislative business. The House will work for public good and serve as the institution that defends the rights of the people to an accountable and transparent government.
“The House’s relationship with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) will be that of partnership and collaboration to deliver on citizens’ expectations of the legislature”.
At the close of legislative agenda, the House said it has passed 382 out of 1643 bills presented in the life span of the 8th Assembly; resolved 1413 out of the 1588 motions sponsored and considered 205 out of the 1192 petitions received.
Giving account of its legislative business, Edward Pwajok, chairman Rules and Business Committee of House stated that, “in the first session, 685 bills were introduced and 68 were passed.”
“In the second session, 379 bills were introduced and 41 were passed. In the third session, 446 bills were introduced and 94 were passed. In the fourth session, 143 bills were introduced and 63 were passed. The total I repeat, 1643 bills that we presented and 352 were passed.
“For motions, 1413 were resolved, 1137 were referred to various committees, 17 were withdrawn and 1 was deferred leaving a total of 1588. The House received and lay on the table, 1192 petitions, lay and yet to be consider 22, considered on the floor of the House 205, and rejected 2. 108 of the bills came from the Senate, 1465 of the bills were private members bills”.
On other areas of achievement of the House during the period under review, he said, “This 8th Assembly made history by altering the constitution. This Assembly successfully alters many sections of the constitution, including giving the State Legislature and Judiciary financial autonomy.
“We also lower the age limit for those contesting in the not too young to run bill, which opened up the space for our younger citizens to offer themselves to be voted for offices.
“We also amended the constitution so that if there is any vacancy or something happen to Mr. President, the Vice President will not only step in but retain power and the same thing too for governors.
“It is through this Assembly that private members bill changed democracy day from May 29 to June 12. It is this Assembly that increased the minimum wage to N30, 000 as against the 27, 000 proposed by the executive.
“There are many progressive bills passed which are awaiting assent. There is one to remove age discrimination because we have earlier declared state of emergency on unemployment so that our employed youths and graduates will receive favourable attention by the public service.
“Abolition of first degrees and HND dichotomy, granting married women in the public service options of citizenship, either citizenship of their father or husbands, repel and enactment of new company and allied company act which has not been amended since 1990 to ease doing business in Nigeria.
“Prohibition of estimated billing by electricity distribution companies, establishment of the North East Development Commission and also we have passed the South East Development Commission bill,
“Apart from bills which is the core function of the Legislature which is to make law, the 8th Assembly pursued its representational role as elected representative of the people to speak for the people of Nigeria, passed many resolutions covering all areas of our national life that concerned the people from insecurity to terrorist attacks, murder, kidnapping, killings, education, health, Nigeria in Diaspora, unemployment, youth, women, etc.
“In terms of oversight responsibility of the House, we investigated many of the Ministries to expose corruption in line with section 58 of the constitution. It is the deliberations of the House on members motion that get the police and other government agencies to embark on using local governments as a basis for recruitment using Federal Character principles”.
Agenda for the 9th Assembly
While the 8th Assembly (Reps) could be said to have done its best though not necessarily to the satisfaction of many Nigerians, the 9th Assembly which takes off Tuesday is expected to pursue agendas that would further entrench democracy and development in Nigeria.
Stakeholders in democratic governance have suggested a revisit of the unsigned Electoral Act amendment bill, bills that will boost economic prosperity and strengthen institutions as the main legislative agenda.
According to the stakeholders, poor electoral system, economic uncertainties and weak institutions are the bane of Nigeria’s social, political and economic advancement.
Mahmood Yakubu, chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told members-elect to start work early and conclude work on the electoral framework in good time, well ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Yakubu urged them to come up with a review of the electoral law that would assist the commission to begin work on post-2019 elections review and road map to 2023 as the success of Nigeria’s elections depends on the electoral legal framework.
“As a process governed by law, the success of elections in Nigeria depends, to a large extent, on the electoral legal framework and most importantly in ensuring adherence to the law.
“The tendency to delay electoral reforms, particularly the review of electoral framework until it is too close to the elections, leaves the commission with little time to develop processes, including regulations and guidelines, make required consultations with stakeholders, embark on effective voter education, including sensitisation, train staff and organise deployment for the elections.
Similarly, Idayat Hassan, coordinator, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) called on the incoming 9th Assembly to as a matter of urgency work on electoral reforms and avoid been rubber stamp in the guise of harmonious executive legislative relationship.
“The most important agenda should be electoral reform from day one. The Executive must not just pursue harmonious relationship now that she has majority in government but most also send executive bills to the NASS for passage,” she suggested.
Joseph Otteh, executive director, Access to Justice, affirmed that amendment of the Electoral should be focus of legislative agenda by the 9th Assembly to curtail the electoral malpractices.
“There are several areas where the National Assembly can help improve governance, beginning from reviewing the process that brought many of them in as lawmakers. That could be a good point of departure. If we do not strengthen the integrity of our electoral system, we will see an escalated level of abuse of the system in future elections,” Otteh said.
According to him, “Nigeria needs new electoral laws that will provide not just improved balloting procedures, but non-discriminatory and mandatory enforcement of criminal laws governing the conduct of elections and tampering with election results. We should ensure that those who participate in perverting the electoral system must be kept away from the system for a very, very long time as a deterrent.”
Jude Uzoma, coordinator, Foundation for Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth, wants the 9th National Assembly to be very committed and look at public outcry with a view to ending poverty, poor education, lack of adequate water supply, accommodation and many other issues.
Uzoma also advocated reworking of the Electoral Act amendment bill, making laws that will strengthen anti graft agencies and diversify the economy.
“I look forward to the National Assembly passing laws, not just passing laws and making sure the existing laws become functional. Particularly when we talk about the Electoral Act that the President refused to assent to in the last National Assembly, you will realise that it is not just because the President feel entrapped by the Electoral Act,” he said.
“It was probably because certain clauses were politically inclined and to favour some interests. So, in the 9th National Assembly we don’t need all that, in as much as we want the President to assent to the Electoral Act, there must be amendments,” he further said.
James Kwen, Abuja